Daniel Jones looked physically capable coming off injury, and Jason Garrett was back from his one-game COVID-19 absence calling plays on the sideline.
But the Giants offense still only managed 13 points, surrendered six sacks, rushed for 54 yards, and made the worst kind of history: They ran only three offensive plays in the first quarter, the fewest by a Giants team in at least the last 40 years, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Their 54 rush yards was their lowest total since the Steelers held them to 29 in Week 1.
“We didn’t start the game like we needed to,” Jones said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. On a couple plays, we weren’t able to convert on third down, and that threw us behind. It dug a little hole for us. It makes it tough when you put yourself in that position.”
The Giants’ defense got run over early, but the offense compounded the D’s poor start and a 7-0 deficit with a first-quarter three-and-out. Back-to-back false starts from seventh-year right tackle Cam Fleming and ninth-year right guard Kevin Zeitler led to a quick punt, and the Ravens raced back downfield for a 14-0 lead.
The next possession, wideout Sterling Shepard mistakenly broke off a first-down deep route that could have been a touchdown and Jones threw incomplete. Two plays later, rookie receiver Austin Mack dropped an easy pass on third down to force another punt.
Baltimore tacked on another field goal for a 17-0 lead and would go into the half leading 20-3. The Giants never recovered.
“It’s simple things we have to correct,” Shepard said. “When you look at the first drive, little things like jumping offsides put us in a bad position. Those types of things are just mental errors, it’s nothing the opposing team did, it was something we did to ourselves. I look at it like we have to get into the room and correct those things.”
That included Shepard’s own error on the route he broke off.
“I had one today I should’ve taken deep, and I hooked it up,” Shepard said. “That was my chance to go deep. Yes, that’s my fault. I got to go deep on that one. I believe it was cover zero, and that’s my fault.”
Jones, for his part, said that “health-wise, I feel good. I feel a lot better.” He completed 24-of-41 passes for 252 yards and a 3-yard TD pass to Shepard in the fourth-quarter.
That was Jones’ ninth TD pass of the season, his first in four games, and his first since a Week 9 road win at Washington. It snapped a drought of eight straight quarters without a Giants touchdown that started in the fourth quarter two games ago against the Cardinals.
Jones still was unable to tuck and run on his left ankle sprain and right hamstring strain, pulling it down only once for a three-yard gain on the Giants’ second-to-last play of the game.
Any immobility on Jones’ part wasn’t the reason the Giants lost the game. It didn’t help in the second half, though, when Ravens D coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale brought the house on the blitz, as his calling card.
Jones was sacked on three consecutive plays, in fact, before a Ravens roughing the kicker penalty on punter Riley Dixon extended the Giants’ one and only touchdown drive.
“(The Ravens) deserve the credit,” Jones said. “They were pressuring and found different ways to bring it. I’ve got to do a better job of seeing it and getting the ball out in a lot of those situations whether they’re exposed in the back end and in coverage. We’ll look at that and learn from it. I certainly have to do a better job.”
Rookies Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux and Matt Peart all appeared responsible at different times for Jones going down.
Garrett, after an unproductive first half, cost the Giants points with an ill-advised throwback screen pass across the field from Jones to Shepard. The 5-yard loss on 1st and 10 from the Ravens’ 19 preceded a 7-yard Jones sack and held the Giants to only a field goal to narrow the gap to 20-6 with 3:59 left in the third quarter.
Garrett had missed the previous week’s 20-6 loss to the Browns due to a positive COVID-19 test, and Freddie Kitchens had called plays. The Giants moved the ball well with Kitchens and Colt McCoy running the offense early against Cleveland but couldn’t score in the red zone.
Garrett then was cleared to travel with the team and return to run the offense on Sunday.
The Ravens played without starting corners Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder) and Marcus Peters (calf), but the Giants now have scored just 26 total points the last three weeks. They are averaging 17.1 points per game, 31st in the 32 team NFL.
Only the Jets (15.2) score less often.
GRAHAM IS GOOD
Graham Gano tied Josh Brown’s Giants franchise record of 29 consecutive field goals made with two more through the uprights on Sunday. Gano, 33, also set a new personal record.
His 31-yarder in the second quarter tied his own career-best streak from Carolina (2017-18). Then his 42-yarder in the third quarter set a new mark and matched Brown’s franchise record of 29 straight from 2014-15.
Gano is now 30-of-31 on field goals this season and 20-of-21 on extra points.
Gano was out of football last season due to surgery on his left knee. The Giants signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $2.25 million on Aug. 19. And his consistency already earned him a three-year extension with $14 million in new money, including $9.5 million guaranteed, in November.
He tested positive for COVID-19 immediately after signing his new contract entering the bye week but did not miss a game. His consistency is a welcome change to a position of turmoil for the Giants in recent years, from Brown to Aldrick Rosas.
INACTIVES AND INJURIES
Giants fullback Eli Penny sat out Sunday’s game due to a non-COVID-related illness, the team said. Penny is a key special teamer (third on team in snaps) and a valuable piece of the run game. The Giants mostly used tight end Kaden Smith as a lead blocker … Wide receiver Dante Pettis made his Giants debut with Golden Tate (calf) sidelined and made two catches for 33 yards … The Giants’ other inactives were offensive tackles Kyle Murphy and Jackson Barton and defensive end R.J. McIntosh.